Presented on May 29, 2019 in the Quarry Farm Barn as part of the Spring 2019 "Trouble Begins" Lecture Series.
When Sam Clemens was still young, a technological revolution in publishing - including breakthroughs in printing of pictures - provided new ways to fuel and gratify an unprecedented curiosity about the private lives of famous writers, and doing so became a lucrative sport. Where they were born and where they resided; the byways they wandered for epiphanies or Deep Thoughts; where there spouses or the Lost Loves grew up or passed away - all of this and more became fair game for mass-market words and pictures. Over the course of Mark Twain's life we can trace this cultural transformation, and see how Quarry Farm, the Hartford mansion, and other residences here and abroad figured in a long campaign by Sam and his family to live in this new limelight, and also to evade it. The Clemenses performed a "private" family life in some places, and tried to sustain the real thing in others - in an era before television, social media, paparazzi, data mining, and all the resit of it brought American personal privacy to an end.
Bruce Michelson is the author of Mark Twain on the Loose and Printer's Devil: Mark Twain and the American Publishing Revolution, as well as many articles and book chapters about Mark Twain and other writers. He is Professor Emeritus of American Literature at the University of Illinois, and a past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America and The American Humor Studies Association. A Contributing Editor at Studies in American Humor, he is also a Fulbright Ambassador, having received two fellowships from the Fulbright Program. His most recent work includes a translation of George Clemenceau's writing on Claude Monet and the fine arts and a one-act comedy about Sam Clemens, his daughter Susy, and a Mysterious Stranger in France.